Three friends and a truck in Hermosa Beach
As a boy in Brazil, Andre Klaser dreamed of owning a Ford F 150. So did two friends he would meet when he came to the US
by Kevin Cody
Last month, when pandemic protocols were in full force, Granny’s Deli owner Andre Klaser walked up to an old, red Ford 150, parked at the curb in front of his store to deliver some called-in sandwiches.
Andre gave the old truck a hard look. The American Racing wheels were the same wheels decades earlier he had put on his own red Ford 150 because he liked the way they looked on Hap Jacob’s El Camino. Jacob shaped Klaser’s surfboards.
Then he looked at the driver, and saw it was his longtime friend Billy Meistrell, whose family owns Dive N’ Surf, where Klaser buys his wetsuits.
“Billy, that’s my truck,” Klaser said.
“It is your truck,” Meistrell confirmed.
“I wish I never sold it. But I’m glad you got it,” Klaser said.
“That’s what Kenny said when he sold it to me,” Meistrell responded. “The only person not happy is my wife. Karen wants to know which truck I’m getting rid of.” Meistrell already had five trucks, including an army surplus dually.
“That’s exactly what Shirley says when I bring home a new surfboard,” Klaser said.
As a child growing up in Brazil, Klaser had two dreams. One was to come to the United States. The other was to own a Ford F150 with a V-8.
“All the cars in Brazil are little with little engines. Only the rich had F150s,” Klaser said.
He came to the U.S. in 1986 because the import-export company he worked for wanted him to learn English.
“A Brazilian Airline flight attendant living in Torrance said I could sleep on her couch for two weeks. I stayed a year,” he said.
Shortly after arriving, he met his future wife, Shirley. Her grandparents Helen and Frank Lemaster had owned Lemaster’s market on Monterey Boulevard in Hermosa Beach, from 1950 to 1970. An Englishman opened the store in 1924, long before most of the neighboring homes were built. Shirley bought it back in 1992 from the people who had bought it from her grandparents. She renamed it Granny’s, after “Granny” Helen.
Shirley and Andre have made Granny’s a gathering place in the tradition of old country stores.
In 1994, having achieved his first dream, of coming to America, Klaser picked up an Auto Trader at the 7-11 in search of an F150. He found a 1990 for $800. That same day he showed up at the seller’s door with $800 in cash. The truck was perfect for picking up produce and staples.
In 2000, his surf buddy Kenny Brown was installing cabinets in the Klaser kitchen when Brown spotted the red F150. “I wanted it from the minute I saw it,” Brown said.
By that time, the F150 was the best selling vehicle in America. The old ones were particularly prized because they had eight foot beds, designed to fit a standard sheet of plywood. The newer truck beds are six-and-a-half-feet.
In addition to cabinetry, Brown made wood fins for Jacobs and other local shapers and frequently made surf trips to Mexico.
Brown offered to take the truck in trade for his cabinetry work.
Klaser reluctantly agreed.
“I already knew the truck had to go. The only place to buckle in my five-year-old son Ryan was in the middle of the bench seat. And he thought it was funny to grab the wheel. I needed a crew cab so I could put him in the back seat.”
Over the next two decades, in addition to surf trips, Brown used the truck to haul cabinet lumber to his Hermosa shop, and finished cabinets to his customers.
A few months ago, Brown closed his wood shop. He and his wife Patti are moving to the mountains. He wouldn’t need the truck, but he was particular about whom he would sell it to.
“I didn’t want to sell it to someone who was just looking for a work truck. I wanted someone who would respect its local history,” Brown said.
When Meistrell heard Kenny was selling the truck he immediately made him an offer. Afterwards, Brown told Meistrell he’d have taken any offer just to be sure the truck stayed local.
The yard in front of Dive N’ Surf is filled with flotsam. There are old dories, mooring buoys the size of small cars, and SCUBA tanks Meistrell cuts in half and fits with clappers so they ring like buoy bells in the wind.
He told his wife when he brought home the old F150 he needed it so he wouldn’t bang up the family’s new truck.
A few days after buying it, when he stopped by Granny’s for sandwiches, Klaser asked if he could sit in the driver’s seat. The truck was unchanged from when he sold it two decades earlier, except for a Mexican serape Meistrell had draped across the bench seat.
“I’m misting up,” Klaser said as he rested his hands on the wheel. ER
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